Sunday, June 30, 2013

The UCD Offcampus Water Pipeline Across Solano County, Part II: Resistance (129)

2. List
This is the second of two posts on the UCD Offcampus Water Pipeline by means of which
water is transported from the Putah South Canal to the UCD campus. The line itself is described in the first post. This post reports some social aspects of how it was created.

The massive “Solano Project” dammed Putah Creek in order to stop its natural eastern flow and to divert it south for dispersal across Solano County in a system of canals and pipes. The complex array of structures needed for this was almost complete at the end of 1958.

1. '98 Update
In that year and in the next year, UCD officials were still at the “feasibility study” stage of thinking about getting water from that project (UCD 1998 Solano Project Water Conservation Plan Update excerpted in Image 1).

When the decision to attempt acquisition was made, officials had not yet decided between bringing water to the campus in the creek itself versus building a pipeline (Image 1).

An engineering firm was contracted to estimate the cost of each but no decision between the two had been made by late in 1961.

This was because, amazingly and according to the Update, the Solano Project boundaries did not include UCD and “negotiation” (pleading and demanding?) was therefore necessary. (This is in accord with the currently online Solano Project schematic of its distribution system. The district’s boundary does not extend north enough to include the UCD pipeline and that structure is not shown.)
3. 1-13-67

I interpret this part of the history to mean that UCD was something of a late-arriving stepchild of the Solano Project and had to fight its way aboard. Even so, it did get aboard. A contract for water was signed in December 1962.

But water would not start to flow onto the campus until early 1969.

Indeed, the pipeline itself was not built, for the most part, until 1968.

So what was happening in the five years of 1963, ’64, ’65, ’66, and ‘67? Why was there a five-year delay?

The short answer appears to be: property-owner resistance.

Image 2 is an excerpt from the engineering drawing reproduced in the previous post (# 128). It appears to show as many as 62 owners across whose properties the pipeline had to cross. 

4. 9-19-67
In January 1963, the task at hand seems to have been acquiring rights to dig a trench and lay a pipeline on the properties of these owners.

I must now report that I have so far only been able to identify a skimpy and scattered array of documents describing what happened over those five years. But I have found enough, I think, to provide a valid basic story. Of course, this story is subject to change if fuller information comes to light.

The first of these documents is dated January 13, 1967 and is a letter in which a UCD official is hiring three law students to do “process server” work to owners of property across which the pipeline needed to be built (Image 3).

Hiring three law students to serve condemnation orders implies that over 1963-66 a significant portion of owners had not reached voluntary settlement with UCD and it was being forced to allow the pipeline by means of court-ordered condemnation.

The fact that three law students were hired might imply that each expected a decent amount of work for his trouble.  

5. 11-1-67
The second document--image 4--is dated September 19, 1967 and is from a UCD official to a Solano Project official stating that “we are experiencing difficulties in obtaining the easement for construction of the off-campus transmission irrigation line.” Beyond that, the writer of the letter appears to report that UCD is in troublesome arrears in general in meeting its contract obligations to the Solano Project.

Then in image 5, a UCD attorney letter dated November 1, 1967 tells us that there are “some ten remaining parcels to be acquired” through legal action.

We see in images 7 and 8 that when asking people for easements and consent was not obtained, a court issued “Order of Condemnation” was, in fact, used.  

More research would be required in order to know exactly how many property owners were subject to condemnation.


6. 6-3-99
Image 7 shows an excerpt from the Parcel Map of the Solano County Norman Property on which someone has marked the UCD pipeline in red. The important aspect of this marking is, to me, that the “easement” reads “State of California Water Line Easement.”

UC may be a constitutionally autonomous entity of the State of California, but, at the end of the day, it is still a unit of that government with the power to invoke the ultimate sanction, which is coercion. So, at the most fundamental level, the pipeline is a State of California rather than a UCD project.

In the Chancellor’s Office archives folder in which I found some of the above documents, I also came onto a perplexed, October 20, 1967 letter from the illustrious Hubert Heitman to the then Dean of Agriculture James Meyer (Image 9).

UCD apparently owned land near Wolfskill Road on which it had experimental tomato fields that would be traversed by--and destroyed by--the pipeline. As well, additional land would be left unusable. According to Heitman, relevant UCD officials had not informed him of what was to happen and had no plan for dealing with it.

Meyer responded to Heitman’s letter with a memo to campus administrator Ed Spafford asking “Is what he says true?”

This incident of ignorance and self-inflicted damage bespeaks lack of planning. Taken together with the faltering suggested in other documents, do we see serious disorganization at high levels?
7. Map

When I first began researching the pipeline, I thought there must surely have been a public groundbreaking when it started and a ceremony of celebration when the first water began to flow into the main UCD reservoir in early 1969. Perhaps Emil Mrak himself threw the switch that started the flow.

The structure is, after all, an important water project of its era and of key significance to the future of UCD. But, I have yet to find any evidence that it was publicly celebrated--or covered in the press at all. Such ceremonies may well have been held and I have failed to identify them. If they are there, please let me know so I can publish about them here.

8. 10-20-67
On the other hand, perhaps because of a trail of coerced and aggrieved property owners, UCD officials may have had little interest is publicizing the pipeline.  

In the Davis surface water debates of early 2013 and later, some people regarded as experts in water matters claimed that the Davis City Council once had an opportunity to acquire Putah water but decided against it.*

The story I tell here about UCD acquiring Putah water renders such claims extremely dubious. Even UCD getting Putah water was no easy walk. It went against many obstacles in which success was not certain. And this was hard-going for an entity that had a right to Putah water by virtue of owning much Solano County property. Further, UCD was a State of California unit with very considerable state-level financial, legal, water expertise, and other resources with which it could force access to Putah water and get it transported across Solano County against resistance.

The City of Davis had few or none of these advantages or resources. And given what we have otherwise seen, it is exceedingly unlikely the Solano Project magnanimously offered Putah water to the City of Davis.

*                      *                      *
Let me conclude by saying once again: If anyone has information on the UCD Offcampus Pipeline that revises and/or expands the account I give here, please let me know and I will publish it.

* Davis History Today post # 95, January 13, 2013:

I am pleased to repeat from the last post my thanks to the following UCD officials for their genial and effective help on this project: Dave Klippert, Manager, Campus Planning and Community Resources, Civil and Industrial Services; Lewis S. Pollock, Superintendent, Utilities Division; and, John Skarstad, University Archivist.